Its been on my blog topic list to do a post on my favorite essential oils for soapmaking. I just haven’t gotten around to doing it but I noticed that my soaping buddy, Angela of Alegna Soap did one recently of her favorites. So I took it as a kick in the pants to get it done! Check out Angela’s favorite’s here. Also, if you’re in the Long Island area, take a class from her! She is one of the sweetest people I know and is an excellent teacher.

essential oils for soap making

When I started my soapmaking journey I would make soap with fragrance oils such as honeysuckle, fresh cut grass, kumquat and because I lived in Texas, yellow rose of Texas, Bluebonnet, etc. I had a cabinet loaded down with a ridiculous amount of FO’s. I was a FO Ho! (Sound familiar?)

I also made soap with essential oils. I used lavender, tea tree, peppermint, sweet orange, lemongrass and a few more. These were the soaps that you would find in my shower; not the FO scented soaps that I sold at the farmer’s market.

essential oils in soap

Nowadays, I don’t use fragrance oils at all. My nose just doesn’t like them. Using fragrance oils or essential oils is simply a matter of preference and a matter of what your target customer prefers.

It can sometimes be tricky to get essential oil blends to stick in soap. You definitely have to have well-rounded blends that have strong and sticky base notes.

For an interesting article on essential oils in cold process soap, check out this post by Robert Tisserand and Kevin Dunn, Essential Oil in Soap, An Interview with Kevin Dunn. It examines which chemicals in essential oils react with the lye. And just because an essential oil is affected by lye doesn’t mean you can’t use it; it just means that it will smell different in soap than in the bottle.

essential oils

One question that I get asked a lot is do the aromatherapy benefits of essentials make it through saponification? I always tell people that if you can smell it, you can receive aromatherapy benefits. It might have changed from the original oil after going through the saponification, but there are still benefits.

In the article above in the comments, Robert Tisserand states, “But, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that essential oils in soap are active. The heat may cause some loss of essential oil molecules through evaporation, but it should not cause any significant chemical changes. The contact with alkali will cause some chemical changes, and of course that’s what Kevin describes in the interview. These changes may or may not result in an alteration of therapeutic properties. That depends on which properties you are measuring and also on which constituents you are talking about, so there isn’t a simple answer. Except perhaps to say that in MOST instances essential oils do in fact retain their therapeutic action!”

Here are my favorites.

My Top 10 Essential Oils for Cold Process Soap

Lavender – I love lavender in soap. Lavender is balancing, relaxing and if you sell soap, your customers will be asking for it. It blends with so many other essential oils and sticks really well even on its own.

Peppermint – Peppermint is another oil that is great on its own or blends well with other oils. Peppermint is great for all year round but is especially popular during the holidays. I also like an essential oil called cornmint (wild mint). It is similar to peppermint but is sweeter to my nose. I always have either peppermint or cornmint in my arsenal of EO’s.

Sweet Orange 10 Fold – Who doesn’t like the smell of fresh squeezed oranges? Folded citrus oils seem to have more lasting power in soap. Read more about folded oils at David Fisher’s website here.

Litsea Cubeba – Litsea (also known as May Chang) is my personal favorite essential oil. It is lemon smelling, bright and uplifting. It gives my soap that citrus smell without disappearing as quickly as some other citrus oils. It comes from an evergreen tree.

Vanilla Oleoresin – This thick gooey luscious essential oil is made by using a solvent extraction. The solvent is then removed leaving behind the essential oil and resin. This stuff is divine. It is a little more expensive, but a little goes a long way in blends. We used to get ours from Rainbow Meadow, but they’ve been out for a bit. If you know another source, let me know! Aussie Soap Supplies has it.

Tea Tree – Tea tree is one of the most useful essential oils out there. I use it on scrapes and bites and other skin issues. Tea tree is anti-bacterial and makes for a great acne soap. It blends well with many other essential oils.

Cinnamon Leaf Essential Oil – Cinnamon is nice to have in your essential oil arsenal. It is nice on its own but also blends well with florals, other spices and citrus.

Lemongrass – Enough said.

Just kidding. But really, who doesn’t like lemongrass? It is bright, refreshing, stimulating and great as a natural insect repellent. I love 100% lemongrass soap but it blends nicely with other oils.

Patchouli – I know, I know. Patchouli is one of those oils that you either LOVE or HATE. With a passion. It is earthy and heavy, rich and dark. If you get patchouli, get aged patchouli. Patchouli is one of those oils that gets better with time. Put 4 oz. into a dark amber jar and hide it somewhere in your house. Find it in a few years. Even if you don’t like patchouli on its own, it is a must have for blending. It anchors and creates depth and drama.

Anise – Anise smells just like licorice. I HATE licorice…but I love anise in soap. It blends so well with peppermint and lavender, creating aromas that are indescribable.

Where do I get my oils? Read this post. Here are some of my favorite blends when using these oils.

Essential Oil Blends for Cold process Soap

These blends are given in percentages. To use, simply determine the full amount of essential oil for your recipe and multiply that by each oil in a blend. For example:

If your recipe calls for 60 grams of essential oil and you want to use a blend of lavender (50%) and litsea (50%), multiply 60 * .5 (50%) for each. You will use 30 grams of lavender and 30 grams of litsea in your soap.

Lavender – 50%
Litsea – 50%

Peppermint 30%
Anise 70%

Peppermint – 20%
Tea Tree – 20%
Lavender – 60%

Sweet Orange – 60%
Vanilla Oleoresin – 20%
Cinnamon Leaf – 10%
Patchouli – 10%

Lavender – 60%
Anise – 40%

Lavender – 50%
Peppermint – 50%

Sweet Orange – 30%
Lavender – 40%
Patchouli – 10%
Peppermint – 10%
Vanilla – 10%

Lemongrass – 25%
Litsea – 25%
Sweet Orange – 40%
Patchouli – 10%

Lemongrass – 100%

Lavender – 100%

Do you want more essential oil blends for cold process soap? Check out my eBook, Lovin’ Soap Studio Cold Process Recipe Book, which features 64 essential oil blends!


What are you favorite essential oils in soap?

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-Amanda Gail